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Connecticut Officials Push Washington to Offer Free Diapers to Poor Mothers

A U.S. congresswoman in Connecticut wants to boost the economy by offering free diapers to low-income families.AP2010

Call it a baby stimulus.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy has declared Thursday “Diaper Need Awareness Day” as part of a campaign by The Nutmeg State to pressure Washington into providing free diapers to low-income families.

Supporters will host a fundraiser and a panel discussion in New Haven on the public health risks for babies whose diapers aren't changed frequently enough. 

The move follows legislation introduced earlier this month by Rep. Rosa DeLauro that would amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990. The act provides funding to help low-income mothers pay for day care services. The update would allow Uncle Sam to also provide funding for diapers and diaper supplies.

DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, estimates that families pay about $100 a month to cover babies' bottoms.

"No family should have to choose between buying diapers for their child or buying groceries – but that is exactly what is happening today," DeLauro said in a statement. "Diapers are expensive, but necessary, to keep children health and in daycare, giving their parents the freedom they need to work."

DeLauro's legislation doesn't speficy how many families would benefit or how much it would cost.

According to a study sponsored by Huggies diapers, one in three families struggle to provide diapers and one in 20 mothers have used reused wet or soiled disposable diapers. The maker of Huggies on Monday cut its sales outlook in the U.S. and other developed markets, citing a low birth rate due to the economic downturn.

But critics of the legislation say forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab is a misuse of already tight funds.

"Stay-at-home moms where the dad is making the single income make great sacrifices," Penny Young Nance, president and chief executive officer for Concerned Women for America, told FoxNews.com in an email. "It doesn’t work to take more from her husband’s paycheck to give away diapers. And what about families where the grandmother, sister or dad stays home while the spouse works? We believe this is shortsighted."

Nance said that she understands the concern behind the legislation but added that it’s not helpful in the long run.

"With all of the crazy spending by government, we can’t afford to do this,” she said. “I would much prefer they lower taxes so that Americans can afford to pay for their own diapers. In this time of economic crisis, it is a great time for churches to show compassion and do what churches are supposed to do."

Carrie Lukas, the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum, wrote in a blog that diapers can be a necessary burden for any parent, especially low-income parents.

“But is the best solution to this problem really for our federal government to collect taxes from all Americans and then dish it all back to the states as block grants with a pile of rules dictating exactly how the funds must be used, including if diapers qualify as a childcare expense? Surely this is an issue that states and localities can tackle, if private entities, including charities, really fail at the job.”

With Republicans in control of the House, the legislation is likely to dry up before it gets a vote.

Even without federal funds, low-income parents can access free diapers in multiple ways. Early Head Start, a federally funded program that helps children in low-income families, already offers free diapers and formula.

Companies like Huggies and Pampers also offer rewards programs that allow consumers to accumulate points for coupons for free diapers. Parents can also register with diaper companies on their websites to receive free diapers, get free ones from the local hospital or rely on free sample packages of diapers that are given away on a regular basis.

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